Let’s talk about creating an office culture that we can all be proud of. 

I’ve started to notice something strange recently when doing some research about creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people in the workplace. That issue? Well, pretty much everything I saw was geared towards bosses, directing CEOs to create training programs, non-discriminatory benefits, and inclusive mission statements. And, don’t get me wrong, those are all important steps. But creating a truly inclusive workplace requires effort from all employees, not just the people on top. And while some of us might not have the power to put together task forces or mission statements for our companies, all of us have the power to help make our workplaces more inclusive. 

So what can any old employee do to make their workplace a safe space? Here are just a few ways:

  1. Stop Playing The Guessing Game: An employee’s first day (or really any day, for that matter) at work is not the time to test out your “gaydar.” Actually, how about you just put that back in your drawer and then never take it out again. Starting a new job can be an awkward experience for anyone, and that is without strangers scrutinizing your clothing or mannerisms for anything that might send a blip on their nonexistent homosexual radar. 
  2. Let Coworkers Come Out When (And If) They’re Ready: This might seem like the same as #1, but any queer person at a workplace knows the difference. Trust me, Karen, no matter how cleverly cloaked you think your questions might be about whether I have a boyfriend, I can still tell when someone is just fishing to learn about my sexuality. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 46% of LGBTQ+ workers say they are closeted at work, with most saying they haven’t come out of fear of possibly being stereotyped, making people feel uncomfortable, or losing connections with their coworkers. So let everyone come to their own very personal decision on when and what they are willing to share. 
  3. Don’t Brush LGBTQ+ Stories Under The Rug: One of most common things I will hear from friends who have come out are things like “they’re fine with the fact that I’m gay, but we just don’t talk about it.” Thirty-six percent of non-LGBTQ+ employees told HRC that they “would feel uncomfortable hearing an LGBTQ colleague talk about dating.” Ignoring queer relationships as if they do not exist signals to those in the LGBTQ+ community that their stories are not welcome. Instead, if a coworker has come out and you form a friendly relationship, feel free to ask them about their partner the same way that you might ask a straight coworker about his or her husband or wife (but keep it appropriate, obviously). 
  4. Use The Right Pronouns, Always: It’s not your choice whether or not you want to use someone’s correct pronouns. If a coworker says that they prefer to be referred to as a non-gendered “they” pronoun, for example, respect it. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a necessity. 
  5. Being A Better Coworker Means Being A Better Ally: Supporting the LGBTQ+ community includes creating a safe space at your office. But it does not have to stop once you’re off the clock. Push back when you see or hear others making homophobic jokes or stereotyping. Volunteer, donate your time or money, protest, post job openings on LGBTQ+ job boards, or find other ways to support the community. 

So go out there and make us all proud!
Content Team

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